Reviewed for: Xbox 360
Ahead of time, I want to apologize for reviewing such an old game, but I'm certain it's a game that a lot of people overlooked. I felt I really needed to put in my 2 cents for a game that was so crappy, I fell in love.
There's a funny story behind this game. When I first played it, there was a major uproar between my friends over such a crappy styled game. In fact, when I rented it from Gamefly, I really didn't think much of it. I reviewed it back in April, but I feel like I need people to know about this game. It's one of the few games I actually recommend. I was really hooked by how such a simple game could impress me in such a way. In fact, this game and Heavy Rain were the only games that really stayed with me. It's one of those games that will probably turn off a lot of gamers by it's poor and cheap production, but has a heart of gold.
Okay, I've got to get something off my chest. This game by all means does not deserve anything higher than a 4, but there's something in this game that keeps me from tearing my eyes out of my head. I can't put my finger on it.
You play as Francis Morgan, but "everyone calls him York", which doesn't make sense. Throughout the game, he "talks" to a Zach, an invisible 4th wall that never seems to come into play. You follow dark skies and horrible contorted zombie-like characters into a town called Greenvale. At first glace, a lot of people would reference this game to Siren on the PS2. The "things" come out of the ground and attack you without asking questions, which is easy to avoid, it's the fact that when you're trying to DO things, they are very annoying. You start with infinite pistol ammo, but reloading is a bitch. You get other weapons, but they are useless, unless you get infinite ammo for the SMG and the shotgun, but side-missions are required and if you're vaguely interested, you're not going to want to put in the effort.
You meet other characters, and they don't seem to like the way you handle the murder investigation surrounding the story. Soon, you start to see that maybe the town is involved in all this, and it's shady townsfolk only make the point more clear. In the middle of it all is a florescent eyed serial killer, who wields a red raincoat and an axe. If I wasn't mistaken, I just keep seeing Pyramid Head, the way he drags that axe on the ground. But this isn't just a cheap knockoff, mind you. It constantly references movies from the 80's, as York brings up as he talks to himself. If you ever seen the show Twin Peaks, you'd probably get into this game. I haven't personally seen it, but by looking at the wiki page, it's so similar right down to the main characters love of coffee and cherry pie, it's hard to think the Japanese devs who made the game weren't diehard fans of the show.
Now the bad part. The graphics are horrendous. Inexcusable for 360. At best, they seem like really good Dreamcast graphics, or possibly PS2 graphics, and the character models look like those I've seen in Shenmue. The sound is mediocre. The same three songs play over and over. And not good ones. When it's sunny out, you might hear a nice whistling melody that neither fits the theme or even remotely sounds good, and yet, so catchy, I've found myself whistling the tune when I'm driving somewhere. And the controls are just awesomely bad. Your stoic walking and running isn't analog stick sensitive at all, and trying to drive a car is a joke.
Which brings me to meticulous details. You'd think that they'd put more work into detail and not your own upkeep. You need to eat to keep your hunger up and sleep so you won't get tired. Coffee helps for your sleep and donuts, pickles, suckers, that sort of thing for hunger. Also things like gas for your car and keeping your suit clean might be nice for The Sims, but I've often found myself shaving for the fun of it. Like, have I lost my mind, this game is so strangely bad, that I love it. Little details like being able to turn on your wipers in the rain or using a turn signal is neat, but useless.
Here's the strange request. Up till now, you're probably thinking to yourself, "So, you're telling me that the game sucks, but you want me to play it?" Crazy request I know, but the game actually has it's qualities. The story is interesting. It's odd to think that a low-budget game could have one redeeming quality, but going through the game finding clues to process a murder, while trying to prevent your own is basic, but it goes deeper. There are creepy themes here, and almost a Saw-esque intrigue to it. Lets see, what else am I missing?
I guess in the end, it's how much you want to put up with. Do you want to see how the story ends? It has a great twist at the end, but getting to it, you have to put up with long driving sequences (which doing a particular side quest fixes this, so you can fast-travel). Decently long game filled with hours of side missions and puzzles that a third grader could solve. Most of the game is spent in sunny (or rainy) Greenvale while the rest is in a "Other world" not like Silent Hill's metal-clad other world, but one with red vines and purple mist, and sometimes GIANT DOGS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD.
For what it's worth, it's not the worst game to come out, but rather could have used more work. It has an interesting story and a nice length to it, but is bogged down by nearly everything else. Most people wouldn't even get past the prologue without raging and turning it off, but there is more to this game for those who are patient enough to get through it.
THE SHORT OF IT:
STORY: It's not a bad title. York seems really out of place in this town, and nobody seems to want him there. But you brave it, and get through it all to solve a huge mystery dating back some moons. Everyone in town is a suspect, and each have their own story, but you may only find a few of them more interesting than others. You'll find yourself wanting to understand the story, but it'll just weird you out and change directions. Taking a lot of cues from various horror games and movies as well as Twin Peaks as described earlier, you may find your trip to Greenvale quite nostalgic. 9/10
SOUND: I don't really understand why the sound director did what he did. The jaunty sunshine music and the tense chase tunes are kinda out of place, and feel like they don't belong, but at the same time it's damn catchy. You figure if it's an audio masterpiece, someone is doing their job right for once. Not the game's greatest quality, but hey, it could be completely DEVOID of sound. 4/10
GAMEPLAY: Kind of a up and downer. It's easy to pick up, shoot and control York, but between driving all over "it's-too-freaking-huge" Greenvale and traversing small hallways in small buildings, you may find York feels like he's controlled by a D-Pad. Button configuration is not normal, but can be changed. Also, as said before, the amount of control you have over York is impressive, even if you just spent 40 bucks on one sucker. No lie. 6/10
REPLAY VALUE: Beat the game on Easy, then go back and do all the side missions and get all the trading cards. But your pretty much doing it for achievements. So, that's up to you. If you were anything like me, you want the challenge of Hard, where it's still kinda easy, you're just going through hundreds of clips on just one zombie. 7/10
FINAL JUDGMENT: If you say (and liked) Twin Peaks, you might get a kick out of the game. It's mediocre as hell and hard to stomach at times, but horror fans have an interesting story to wade through, regardless. It's not a buy by any means. The story can be beat in about 10 hours, and no hope of a replay, unless you want to get the other two difficulty achievements. (which require two extra playthroughs) There's a lot of hope that the story keeps you coming back for more.
A 6.5 out of 10, and I'm still telling you to play it? Let me put it this way, I don't understand what it is, but I put it on my top 20. Why in the hell did a mediocre game mean so much to me? Maybe if you play you'll understand what I mean. Everyone of my friends I got to play it, had nothing but good things to say about it, it just depends on how patient of a gamer you are. If it wasn't for such a linear scoring method, I'd actually bump it up to a 7. But thems the breaks. Check it out or don't.